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Pocho (feminine: pocha) is a term used by Mexicans (frequently pejoratively) to describe Chicanos and those who have left Mexico. Stereotypically, pochos speak English and lack fluency in Spanish. Among some Mexican Americans, the term has been embraced to express pride in having both a Mexican and an American heritage[1] asserting their place in the diverse American culture.

The word derives from the Spanish word pocho, used to describe fruit that has become rotten or discolored.

In general, the word "pocho" can sometimes have these different meanings:

  • A Mexican-American who can speak little or no Spanish.
  • An American who speaks Spanish and acts "Mexican".
  • The Anglicized Spanish spoken by a "Pocho" (known in English as "Spanglish") [2]
  • A person who frequently crosses the US-Mexican border and feels at home on both sides of the border.
  • A nickname in Argentina (Pocho or Pocha). For example, the popular president Juan Domingo Perón was called "El Pocho" as well as the Argentinian football players Ezequiel Iván Lavezzi and Federico Insua.
  • A 1959 Chicano novel by José Antonio Villarreal.

Pochos are usually identified by their use of poorly-spoken Spanish. Code switching and the use of loanwords is common as is the use of phrases popular in American culture translated to Spanish, sometimes literally. Code switching often involves inserting English preposition or objective nouns, such as, "Voy a ir shopping ahora en el supermarket" (I am going shopping now at the supermarket).

Modified loanwords are referred to as "pochismos". Examples include mopear for trapear (to mop),troque for camion (truck), parquear for estacionar (to park), or chequear for mirar or verificar (to check, to inspect or to verify). A clear example of a popular American phrase that has been adopted by people familiar with both cultures would be Clint Eastwood's famous quote "Make my day", which has been increasingly used in Spanish as "Hacer mi día."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Handbook of Hispanic Cultures in the United States: Anthropology, Volume 4 By Nicolás Kanellos, Thomas Weaver, Claudio Esteva Fábregat (1994) pg.182
  2. ^ D'Amore, Anna Maria (2009). Translating Contemporary Mexican Texts: Fidelity to Alterity. New York: Peter Lang. p. 79. ISBN 978-1-4331-0499-2.

External links[edit]

  • Definition of pocho
  • "A Note on 'Pochismo'" by William E. Wilson, The Modern Language Journal, Vol. 30, No. 6 (Oct., 1946), pp. 345–346 (Available online at JSTOR - membership required)